We’re big fans of Olympia’s The Washboard Abs. Last year the project, which is Clarke Sondermann and friends, released some really great music, including the excellent album WHATEVERLAND on Z Tapes and a few short and sweet EPs. The Washboard Abs make music that sits at an intersection of bedroom pop and folk, a gentle and reflective style that we once described as
“like being alone in an empty room on a rainy afternoon, when the not-quite-twilight has that blue-grey quality and the only sounds are raindrops on the glass and the shooooshing of passing cars”
The great news is that the band have a new album on Portland, Oregon label Antiquated Future Records. have u scanned ur club card? sees Sondermann continue to carve out his own, lovely-sounding, niche and create some of the nicest, most heartfelt indie pop around.
‘Dust’ opens the album with sedate acoustic guitar and piano, matched by vocals similarly hushed and rounded, like splashing raindrops, which deliver gently poetic lyrics, “Take me far away, to forests with no ceiling, to bridges made of sand / by the time that we awake, our legs, have turned to cedars, we won’t need them to stand”. ‘Window’ is warm and bright and also sort of sad, kind of reminiscent of Florist, the lyrics dealing with moving on:
“Early in the morning but later in the day
your brother snoring the sky will slowly grey
and I will drink my coffee and I will try to say
I think about you often I hope you’re not okay”
‘Sugar Skull’ has a CFTPA-esque tumbling melody with wurlitzer-style old timey keyboard and Sondermann’s nice flowing poetic lyrics, the prettiest descriptions of self destruction I’ve heard for a while (“And every morning there’s a foul taste in my mouth / as I chew my frontal lobe and spit the pieces out / I can’t control the days this ship is rocking let it sway / and night just means the moon is there for you”). The delicately finger-picked ‘Groundform’ precedes ‘The Day Draws Nearer’ was a favourite of ours from WHATEVERLAND and has been re-recorded for this album, with additional piano and vocals from Matilde van Fleet adding to the sense of cosy melancholy. ‘Something New’ is just that, a percussion-heavy track (at least by Washboard Abs standards) with ooohing group vocals behind Sondermann’s tales of searching for something else, another way to live life. “Church bells ringing loud why the fuck are they so proud? / I wish I could believe but believe me they don’t want me”.
‘Home’ sounds almost Appalachian, twitchy pysch-folk guitars drawing in ghostly floating vocals like moths to a flame, before being swamped in lo-fi effects that sound almost like an entire spectral gospel choir has risen from the woods, while ‘Fall Two’ comes in little spiralling gusts of guitar which carry the vocals like dry and brittle leaves. ‘Hold Me Down’ is so subdued it’s sometimes barely there, the lyrics again about struggling to look after yourself and needing help to keep afloat, “Eyes closed or open I feel the light / I dreamt of your funeral late in the night / Where are you going? What do you need? / I’m always forgetting the way that you flee / Will you hold me down?”, and ‘Okay’ has distorted ambient recordings that sound somehow bubbled underwater, like in a strange and disorienting dream. Sondermann’s vocals are wrapped in a blanket of fuzz of their own, sounding soft and comfortingly familiar next to the samples. ‘Ghosts’ is a story about those left behind, about attempts to move on and stave of the fears of going alone. “My stomach growls my lips are cracked my feet are aching to back, but I don’t miss you anymore,” sings Sondermann, “What’s left for but going blind or hunting ghosts to pass the time? Though I can’t feel you anymore.”
Closer ‘Ladder’ is another ghost story, but with a slightly different sentiment. It’s a love song about someone who no longer exists, at least in their physical form, and a great example of how The Washboard Abs make songs sad and sentimental without ever stepping into melodrama.
“Every morning since you died
I’ve tried to stay alive
and you need to know I care
even when I wasn’t there
can you still feel this love?”